The Gift of the Holy Spirit:

Returning to what Christ taught his followers

By Dr. Jay Zinn


Stereo tongues!

That’s what I heard from the muttering tones of David and Cheryl beside me. They were members of the ramped-up teens and twenty-somethings at the church I attended.

You’ve probably met a few Christians like them. They glow. They pray passionately. They like to sway, bounce, and lift their hands during worship. They mark their Bibles and quote from it often. And their unmistakable passion makes you wonder if you’re as flat-out in love with Jesus as they are.

On this particular night of Bible study we closed in a circle of prayer. I positioned myself between the two most qualified people among those “glowing” saints. I assumed that their passion had something to do with this strange language they prayed in, but they never spoke about it. I wanted to hear their words, the syllables, the phrases, and the sounds that had intrigued me ever since I discovered they had this peculiar gift. Once I listened enough to their language, I closed my eyes and prayed—“Please, Jesus, give me what they have. Give me this strange language they speak in. Please, Jesus …”

I said nothing else in English and took a deep breath. I opened my mouth, moved my lips and tongue, and gave voice to the first syllables, which triggered a rapid discharge of unfamiliar words. It happened! I started to speak in tongues like David and Cheryl.

After a few minutes of whispering these strange words, I stopped for a moment to compare their words to mine. It sounded reasonably close, so I tried again. Such a feeling of warmth and peace came over me, and the biggest surprise— it came so easily. No one in the room knew what had just happened, because I spoke softly and never lost control of my senses.

When the group prayer finished, everyone made their way to the kitchen and dining area.

I waited for David to sit down with his snacks and then sat in the chair beside him.

He gave me a nod and smiled.

“David,” I said, “I think I just got what you’ve got.”

“What?” he asked with a puzzled look.

“You know … that strange language you and Cheryl speak in. I’ve heard you and the others who have it and I asked God for it tonight. I think he gave it to me and I spoke it—like you and Cheryl—just moments ago.”

David smiled, glanced to his left and right and said, “Let me hear you.”

I hesitated. Can I still do it?

David moved closer. “It’s okay. Go ahead. But not too loud,” he said looking around the room.
I nodded and closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and spoke again the unfamiliar syllables, the distinct sounds, all of it—even more than before.

I stopped when others began to take their seats around us. I looked over at David for affirmation.
He stroked the fuzz on his chin and said with a smile, “Yep … you’ve got it, brother—you’ve got it.”

A New Turn

Before I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, I attended church and enjoyed it, but I never witnessed anything supernatural. I didn’t know I could. I didn’t recognize my own mediocrity until I became curious about the brothers and sisters that stood out at that church.

My life took a new turn that night I stood between David and Cheryl and spoke in tongues. I had entered into the world of the supernatural and couldn’t look back. I became one of the “unfrozen chosen” in a church that did not believe in the gift except the few.

What happened to me sealed my destiny in God. My love for Jesus increased, my hunger for the Word increased, and my passion to share the gospel with others increased beyond any place I had ever gone. I had been struck by the fire of the Holy Spirit.

With such a transformation happening in my life I wanted to protect it, to understand it in scriptures so I could cast off the doubts in my mind, and the arguments of Christians who tried to invalidate my experience because it didn’t line up with their doctrine or the church’s policy.

The only defense I had to their objections rested in my own testimony. How could something so wonderful and life-changing come from the devil? Would the devil give me something that inspired me to run harder after God? It didn’t make sense. So I kept what I had received to myself until I could confirm it in scripture … and I happily found enough evidence to settle it for me—evidence I’ll share with you in this issue.

The Faith Factor

Have you ever considered how much faith is required to do a Sunday service? What happens at church on Sunday that couldn’t be duplicated by Hollywood, a motivational seminar, a concert tour, or a local theater club? The pre-planned sermon, music, technology, ingenuity, talent, and organization of the service can work quite well enough without the presence of faith. The supernatural dimension of God is easily substituted by the “wow factor” of human creativity. But introduce an Acts 2 Pentecostal experience into the mix of a church service, and faith must be called upon. Faith is required if you want to have that kind of manifested power.

The current generation of young adults has no desire to attend church once they leave the nest. There’s no life, no power and no need for faith. To them, God is nothing more than a religious icon, intangible to their everyday experience. Church is irrelevant, boring, and a waste of time. No wonder young adults are leaving the church in record numbers. According to a recent survey more than half of non-religious Millennials have abandoned their childhood faith (the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs). To engage the youth of our time requires a return to the tangible presence of God. Such a divine presence begins with Holy Spirit encounters on the level of Pentecost. Millennials don’t want religion, they want the real deal. They want to experience God. They want to experience his power.

The Biblical Evidence I Found

All Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they turn to Jesus and are “born again” (John 3:5-7). Salvation is a spiritual birth. But the book of Acts reveals an additional experience to the salvation of the early Christians. They were baptized in the Holy Spirit!

We see this additional experience in the account of Acts 8:12- 17. The Samaritans believed the gospel Philip was preaching and were baptized in water (water baptism follows salvation in the pattern of Acts). When the apostles in Jerusalem heard about it, they came to Samaria to pray for these new converts because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them (Acts 8:16). They had received the Holy Spirit within, but had not received the Holy Spirit upon them like the apostles had experienced in Acts 2:2-4.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism of the believer into the “anointing” of the Holy Spirit. Jesus set the pattern for this when the Spirit descended upon him at the Jordan River in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16). He was water baptized by John and “anointed” by the Holy Spirit. The believer follows Christ’s example when we follow him in water baptism and in Spirit baptism.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is an essential part of our Christian foundation because it impacts the believer’s life in a number of ways. It brings an increased dimension of:

• Authority to witness and minister to others (Acts 1:8).
• Inspiration in worship (John 4:24; Philippians 3:3).
• Power in prayer (Romans 8:26; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20).
• Understanding in the scripture (1 John 2:20, 27; 1 Corinthians 12:12).
• Guidance from God’s voice (Acts 13:2; Mark 13:11; John 16:13-15).
• Manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12 and 14).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift. Once a person receives Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, they are qualified to receive this “gift” from God. Remember, a gift isn’t something you earn. Many have erred to think they’ve got to clean up their act before they can have this experience. The blood of Jesus has already cleansed you from your sins. Therefore, you simply need to desire this gift and ask for it like I did (see Acts 2:38; Luke 11:33).

Some of you may wonder how you can know if you’ve received this gift? This is a legitimate question because it is more than just “taking it by faith.” There is a tangible experience that accompanies the baptism of the Holy Spirit called—speaking in tongues. Look closely at the experience of the early church converts in four classic illustrations:

1. The 120 Jewish converts in Acts 2 spoke in tongues (a new language) when the Holy Spirit came upon them in an upper room in Jerusalem. Visiting Jews from other countries were drawn to this phenomena when they heard the 120 speak about God’s glorious works in their own native tongue (Acts 2:11-12). Amazed at this, the crowd asked what this meant, to which Peter replied (verse 16): “This is what was spoken [foretold] by the prophet Joel.” Joel had prophesied the coming of this experience (Joel 2:28-29), and so did Jesus (see Acts 1:4- 5, 8). Peter also tells the crowd: “Exalted to the right hand of God, he [Jesus] has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear(Acts 2:33). What did the crowd see and hear? They saw and heard 120 disciples speaking in a new language—the tangible evidence of the baptism (anointing) of the Holy Spirit. The tangible evidence of Christ’s anointing was the dove. The tangible evidence of the Christian’s anointing is speaking in unknown tongues.

2. The Samaritan converts in Acts 8 spoke in tongues (by implication). When the apostles came down from Jerusalem to Samaria and laid hands on the new converts, Simon the sorcerer SAW something he wanted to purchase—the ability to lay hands on people and impart the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked him for this and said, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry.” (The Greek word for “ministry” here is logos: something said, or utterance.) Simon saw something uttered. So in light of the pattern of Spirit baptism seen in Acts, it is safe to conclude that Simon saw the Samaritans speaking in tongues (new language).

3. The Roman converts in Acts 10 spoke in tongues. The saved Jews who came with Peter to the household of Cornelius were surprised when they witnessed the Gentiles receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. How did they know? Because they heard them speaking in tongues! Peter acknowledged immediately that this household had received the Holy Spirit just as he and the others had on the day of Pentecost. So he ordered them to also be water baptized to complete the foundation of their conversion. When the apostles back in Jerusalem confronted Peter for going into the home of Gentiles (see Acts 11), he explained how God led him there and how Cornelius and his house had received the same gift the apostles did on the day of Pentecost. Case closed. No one could refute the evidence. The Gentiles had spoken in tongues like the 120 Jews did when they were anointed by God.

4. The Greek converts in Acts 19 spoke in tongues. In Paul’s journey through the interior of Asia Minor, he came across twelve disciples who were not baptized correctly, nor had they been baptized in the Holy Spirit. When Paul settled the issue about water baptism, he laid his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues (Acts 19:6).

In all of the incidents in Acts, the pattern is clear. Something tangible was seen and heard when the early saints received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Tongues were the immediate evidence. Jesus himself predicted this would happen when he said, “And these signs will accompany those who believe … they will speak in new tongues” (Mark 16:17).

Speaking in tongues is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14 explaining the gift’s purpose, practice, and dynamics. The book of Acts provides the historical record of the experience—1 Corinthians provides the insight. There will be more on 1 Corinthians in the next issue.

What is so amazing about this experience is that every believer in Christ can have it. YOU can have it. It’s not earned; it is a gift. Peter told the crowds: “The promise [gift of the Holy Spirit] is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). To say this was only an experience for the early church Christians does not line up with Peter’s promise that this gift is for all. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is just as much for us today as it was for the 120 Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost, and the other new converts in the book of Acts. This is what happened to me on that night I asked to receive what David and Cheryl had. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.


There is so much more to cover on this subject, which I will address in the spring issue. In the meantime, examine these scriptures and ask yourself, “Can this happen to me?” The answer to that question is emphatically, “Yes!” Ask Jesus to give this gift to you, and remember these promises he made when you prepare yourself to receive:

“… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Acts 1:8
“If you [fathers] then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” —Luke 11:13



Dr. Jay Zinn lives in the college town of Davidson, NC where he pastors River’s Edge Church. He is also a freelance, published artist and the author of the novel The Unveiling. For more information you may visit his websites at and


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